For anyone who actively follows the Seattle Seahawks, a lot of the talk following the NFL Scouting Combine seemed to center on the team's need to draft a defensive lineman.
It's not that this should come as any major shock, but what once appeared to be an important need following the knee injury to veteran pass-rusher Chris Clemons during the playoffs suddenly felt like a full scale stampede based on quite a few of the latest mock drafts circulating around the web according to Clare Farnsworth over at Seahawks.com.
Speaking of Farnsworth, it appears that he was quite busy himself by posting no less than three additional articles on the topic that ranged from raw talents from overseas such as BYU end Ezekiel Ansah and SMU lineman Margus Hunt, to UCLA lineman Datone Jones no stranger to Carroll" target="_blank" href="http://blog.seahawks.com/2013/02/24/datone-jones-no-stranger-to-pete-carroll/">Datone Jones' recruitment by members of the 'Hawks coaching staff to attend USC, to head coach Pete Carroll himself stating the need for more pass-rushers:
"We need to improve our guys, we need another pass-rusher, we really do," was Carroll's assessment of the situation during his season-ending session with the media last month. "So we just have to keep working at it and try to get it better.
"If we're not able to find a guy that can spark our pass rush, or a couple of guys, then we have to scheme it at times. … We'll look and we'll see what we can find and what we can figure out on that."
I myself also got caught up in the hype by having the Seahawks select the aforementioned Jones with their first pick in my own latest mock draft.
Yet after seeing so many other writers in essence make the same exact choice immediately following the combine, I began to wonder.
Have we as fans and writers talked ourselves into this or have the Seahawks perhaps tipped their hand here?
After years of defying convention with Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider always doing the unexpected during the draft, why would the 'Hawks suddenly gift wrap their No. 1 pick?
Let's also remember that only a few weeks ago Jones looked like a mid-round pick, but with solid performances at both the Senior Bowl and combine under his belt, the team website Datone Jones no stranger to Carroll">(Seahawks.com) is posting the following by Farnsworth:
Jones first met Carroll when he was a sophomore at Compton (Calif.) High School and Carroll was coaching at USC. Jones said he has talked to Carroll, as well as linebackers coach Ken Norton, here at the NFL Scouting Combine and that they also hooked up at the Senior Bowl last month.
“They recruited me out of high school,” Jones said on Saturday. “Coach Norton gave me a lot of (grief) that I didn’t come to USC. But he respects my game. I love Ken Norton. I’ve known him since I was in the 10th grade.”
In many ways the story sounds eerily similar to how things evolved for Bruce Irvin last year (player recruited by Carroll in high school with a potential mid-round grade leaving college), but now that everyone knows about Jones, where's the surprise?
Granted it's not that Schneider and Carroll have come out and said much on the subject, but if you connect the dots, the trail seems to be leading to Jones for the moment.
Making matters even more confusing is the fact that Jones seems more like a player the Seahawks may need rather than want with their first pick. In essence he sounds like a role player that can play immediately and fill a few gaps, which with the No. 25 pick sounds fair, but don't the 'Hawks have a player or two capable of doing that already?
It was at this time I started thinking about Keith Myers' writeup at 12th Man Rising a short time back on Datone Jones and wondered if a few more clues were there:
It isn’t standard practice for a team to meet with a player twice like this. Teams can only meet with about 85 of the 330 players at the combine, so they tend to skip meeting with players they’ve already been able to interview at the all-star games, or “local” players they’ll be able to bring in for pre-draft workouts.
Datone Jones would be a perfect replacement for Jason Jones on the Seahawk defensive line, as Datone is a very similar player.
Could it be possible that all the buzz about Datone Jones is part of a negotiating ploy with free-agent linemen Jason Jones and perhaps even Alan Branch?
With free agency set to begin next week, you have to wonder if all the talk, especially since so much of it is coming directly from the Seahawks, is simply a red herring of sorts.
Unlike most free agents, the story with Jason Jones is a bit complex. At times last year he looked solid in the middle of the defense when healthy. Unfortunately, he only played in 12 games this past season after signing with the team last offseason on a one-year contract.
With such a small sample size, it's hard to say with any certainty if the 'Hawks should bring him back.
But with so much noise about one player the team could draft and so little about another it could sign who both bring a similar set of skills to the bargaining table, it's curious.
Ultimately, though, it's hard to get terribly excited about someone as your potential No. 1 pick when the folks at NFL.com can only say the following after the combine:
Jones looks the part, and his production matched up to his talent in his senior season. He is very long, has good initial quickness/power, and plays with good pad level. He is versatile enough to play anywhere along the defensive line. Going forward, Jones needs to do a better job of anchoring, or disengaging once his initial surge is halted. However, his immense physical talent and extremely productive senior season should make him an early selection.
At this point, perhaps that's exactly what the Seahawks need, but which Jones will the team end up with...Datone, Jason or neither?
Fingers crossed the powers that be make the right choice, as it could make a big difference next season.